Dads for Destroy the Joint

Following a very pleasant and interesting exchange with Sue Wilson on Destroy the Joint Facebook page, I was emboldened to write this post on my blogspot.

I am treading on dangerous ground in some of what I say, and I expect many will not agree with much of it, but, for the sake of the future I think it must be said. As a supporter of feminist movements for close to sixty years I have viewed many waves of feminism. There has been progress. But each new wave seems to recede in a foam of extreme self interest and criticism from other females.

To ensure that this does not happen to this latest wave I think we should look at trying another way to master such destructive rips. I want to make a positive suggestion and where I am being critical it is merely in order to find an illustration. I intend to be in no way critcal of the right to express any opinion.

I suggest we should not think of our own interests in the here and now, although they are important. We should primarily focus on our daughters, or in the case of us older women, our granddaughters. Issues such as whether Australians of the Year have been primarily male do not really matter one iota. As one organizer of this award said, this is comprehensively explained by the fact that opportunities in life for women to prove themselves have been less than for men during the many years preceding the award.

We need to ensure that in a generation or two these inequalities no longer exist. And this rests on how our daughters and granddaughters are treated now. The pressures from media and marketing on very young children to conform, particularly to conform to strict gender norms, are far greater now than I have ever seen before in my lifetime. How they combat this therefore depends on what happens in the home.

The interesting exchanges between Sue Wilson and myself (and I should make it clear here, for her sake, that we only discussed the issues I mention in this particular paragraph) revealed that we both had fathers who encouraged us to be determined women who were prepared to challenge the status quo. Our discussion focused my psychological understanding of child rearing on the point we raised. Fathers’ attitudes are very significant in the development of a self image and self esteem of their daughters. This has been demonstrated often in research over a number of years.

I suggest we devote a special part of the Destroy the Joint site to invite fathers in – to share and suggest what they can do for their daughters. I think many a father would be delighted to have suggestions for a closer relationships with his young daughters, particularly a relationship not mediated by the mother. (But of course, it must also be borne in mind that the way parents treat each other, and the respect they show each other, is also very significant to the children’s development.) Fathers who set a good example in that area whilst also developing children’s interest in sport, their interest in politics, the expression of opinions, the hobbies or professions in which they themselves are interested; lead those children by example. And when men give their sons and daughters the belief that they can participate equally in these activities the battle is almost won.

I have been discouraged, at very brief moments, by a few posts on Destroy the Joint. I have desperately hoped that the rip is not starting to drag some of us out to sea and once again to separate us women (some with their children). The example I have chosen may be a controversial one but it illustrates what I mean so why not have a good discussion about it! A few, a very few, of the comments about breast feeding slightly disturbed me. The view that women have a very special role in the on going rearing of children that is impossible for others to fulfill particlarly disturbs me. However it is undeniable that only women can breast feed.  Breast feeding is very important for children. To me it is axiomatic that there can be no possible harm done to anyone by public breast feeding or by the choice to feed a child or children for some years. However, when the role of the breast, practical as well as metaphorical, is extended beyond feeding to the comforting of toddlers and to the almost exclsive togetherness of a toddler and his mother, then it appears to me, as a child psychologist, that this is more for the mother’s sake and is not necessarily for the benefit of the child’s continuing development. There are two results that can ensue from this attitude. Firstly for the woman who, being constantly with a child will not be able to play a role in other areas of her life as an equal to a man during this time children are young. She will therefore remain somewhat behind the equivalent male in terms of career and so forth. This must be her choice. But the second is for the child. This means he or she will have less of an opportunity for close, long, individual times with a father and other adults such as grandparents (unless the mother is willing to express her milk whilst they are apart). This affects the child and that child’s relationships so cannot be the mother’s exclusive choice.

When it is directly stated that breast feeding is being used specifically for the comforting of a toddler I become very worried. Leaving aside the fact that food is not an ideal comforter, developing the notion that he or she is a separate entity from the mother is a vital step in every child’s development. The capacity to be comforted by others and to develop the art of self comforting is an important part in this progression. Particularly in the frequently seen nuclear family, the father is a very significant part of this growth.

We talk of glass ceilings and positive discrimination. Some very special women have crashed through glass ceilings. Others have not needed positive discrimination. I suspect that most of these women have been close to their fathers and were brought up receiving very positive messages from him and/or other important male figures in their lives. 

If they have children of their own I am sure the fathers of these children and other loving adults have played significant roles in their care.

Can we stop this particular rip tide that has many times separated women from one another on the issue of feminism and agree that equality has to be a two way street and that we need to encourage the fathers of our children, particularly our daughters, to play a big role in their lives from an early age?

The younger generation have an interesting future to face. They already deal with a system of information exchange never before seen. They will deal with an increasingly global world and the problems of climate change.  I have faith that young girls of today together with their brothers, can make this work. 

Most fathers care about the future of their daughters. Let us give them (and those mothers who are not so aware of the importance of his role) a lead as to how they can help their daughters to the best ever start in life. With us they can co-teach them how to destroy the joint for the betterment of, not only the women of the future, but of the world. Who knows, with their help we might even stop the feminist tide from receding once again.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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4 Responses to Dads for Destroy the Joint

  1. SueWilson says:

    Anne, I am so inspired by your post, and happy to have contributed in some small way. Your suggestion that Destroy the Joint invite fathers to share their thoughts on what they can do for their daughters, is excellent.
    As for treading on dangerous ground, we need people like you who are prepared to do so: for too long we have been treading on eggshells.

  2. I also thought this was a terrific post, so carefully but effectively reasoned. The more the workplace represents a gender divide, the more opportunity for traditional stereotypes to operate. But work is also being done from the home now, and more and more chances there are for the interaction of these roles, workplace and parenting, for both parents. Still, there’s no denying that paid “work” is predominantly in workplaces, many with entrenched gender roles and less chance for men to interact with their children.

    I realise the piece was primarily about the father’s role and how vital it can be. It’s also true that the nuclear family is not always the norm. One-parent, same-sex environment are ones in which children can be reared successfully, and let’s not forget those who for whatever reason are childless. A new generation is a mix of all these. It’s the stereotype that is the danger, because it brings with it fixed ideas locked in where they should not be. The nuclear family is far from the only way Dads, or Dad substitutes can provide that other important influence.

    It’s about flexibility. That applies as well to how nutrients and antibodies are delivered to the babies/toddlers who need them.

    Unlike your disciplined argument, this is a ramble. Sorry.

  3. Anne Powles says:

    Thank you Denis. I agree with what you say. I think perhaps the Destroy the Joint site is trying to do too much. When it originally started the aim was initially to stop sexism and misogynist comments in the public and semi public arena and this would probably be easier to get agreement about.. There are such different expectations among women and , particularly in the area where we do have a different role from that of men, that is procreation, these cause the most division among women. I think having to share some of the more traditional aspects of child rearing scares some women as much as having to share the “hunting” role has scared some men.

    Perhaps it would be easier and less divisive if we stuck to the simpler questions. (But it would be a bit more boring!)

  4. storgatan says:

    hi!,I really like your writing so a lot! percentage we keep up a correspondence more about your article on AOL? I require a specialist in this area to solve my problem. Maybe that is you! Having a look forward to see you

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